I have been asked in the past if there were any amendments of the Constitution that I would be up for repealing if I had the chance. Out of the 27 amendments that have been passed in the history of the United States, there are perhaps 2 that I wouldn’t have any issue seeing go the way of the dinosaur: the 16th and 17th amendments. The 16th Amendment involves the levying of a national income tax upon the population without apportionment or regard to the census. It was approved in 1913 in response to a SCOTUS case (Pollock v. Farmer’s Loan) which ruled that unapportioned income taxes were unconstitutional. The 17th Amendment changed the election of senators, having them be voted in by the populace as opposed to state legislatures. Like the 16th, it was approved in 1913. The amendment was supported to deal with corruption issues and the occurrence of legislative deadlocks and lack of representation if a seat remained vacant.

When it comes to taxation, the income tax is perhaps one of the more egregious and regressive ones that can be implemented. It burdens those who save part or all of their earnings by forcing them to pay tax on the return of their saving, including the tax that already had to be paid on the earnings themselves. Such an action infringes on what I feel is technically one’s private property. Until we choose to inject such money into the economy at-large, it is our money and by putting more pressure on those who save as opposed to those who consume, the income tax serves to limit the actions and decisions that we choose to make. This could include everything from purchases to investments, which can impact potential economic growth.

Instead of such problems, what could work better (Perhaps it would be nice to consider a world without taxation, but that more than likely won’t happen. Therefore, it is best to look for such a system that would be as less regressive as possible) would be to change the current system toward one that has more emphasis on consumption than income. It would widen the tax base by involving more economic branches within the system, and would allow savings and capital to be more in the hands of those who earned it. Of course great care would have to be taken with such a change as to possible threats to those in the lower part of the income bracket (though such harm would more than likely be offset by the likelihood that those who pay the most in taxes will get the most benefit from tax reductions) and the possibility of heightened rates (that could perhaps be dealt with by reforming the bloated state-taxation bureaucracy in large part). It will be a tall order, but such a repeal could serve to push back on the encroachment of the federal government within our everyday lives, which the income tax has aided over the past 100 years.

The reasons for why the 17th Amendment was approved are interesting since closer inspection shows such reasoning to be questionable. Corruption exists in all manner of systems (that’s just the name of the game), but in fact what the 17th Amendment does is cause such corruption to be harder to deal with as opposed to the previous system. If a senator acted out of order, he could quickly be removed by the state legislature that appointed him. Today, that is hardly the case as senators share an almost unanimous opportunity at getting re-elected despite any controversies. State legislators are easier to hold to account for issues since local/state constituents are within their districts, which isn’t the case with senators all the way in D.C. The electoral deadlocks cited as the other reason weren’t inherent to the legislature-appointment system. In fact, such deadlocks became more apparent as a result of federal laws that changed the manners by which state legislatures chose candidates for senate seats, particularly an 1866 law that forced senators to be voted in by a majority vote of state legislatures, and included procedures by which they would occur. In response, frequent deadlocks would occur…with most settled through bribery. Instead of going through the entire process of editing the Constitution, the harmful law could have just been repealed and allowed states to work out the rules on their own terms…which is what it was in the first place.

Even within a great document such as the Constitution, changes upon it’s structure were not always for the better. The 16th and 17th are perhaps the most noticeable examples of the bunch.

Extra Links:
http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/ConsumptionTax.html
http://www.cato.org/publications/cato-online-forum/move-progressive-consumption-tax
http://www.kc.frb.org/publicat/econrev/PDF/2q05garn.pdf
http://www.garciareport.com/17th-amendment-bad-repeal-it/
http://volokh.com/2010/11/15/on-the-true-story-of-the-history-of-the-seventeenth-amendment-and-federalism/

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